2017 Fantasy Baseball Team Preview: Detroit Tigers
You can follow us on Twitter, Steve @fantasygeek37 and Ryan @fightingchance. Also please like Fighting Chance Fantasy on Facebook here.
2016 Record: 86-75 (2nd in AL Central)
My team! As a life-long "Michigander", the Detroit Tigers have always been near and dear to my heart. I was nine years old when the Tigers won the 1984 World Series and I've been hooked ever since. I bet you, please don't do the math to figure out how old I am. Detroit is at a bit of a crossroads this year. They are a good team that still has the potential to be a contender, but they have also started moving a few pieces like David Price and Yeonis Cespedes over the last few years to start and replenish their farm system. Rumors have swirled that guys like J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler and even Justin Verlander could be moved if the price is right, so the path that the Tigers may follow at the trade deadline, may depend on how good they perform in the first half of the season.
Projected Batting Order
- Ian Kinsler - 2B
- J.D. Martinez - OF
- Miguel Cabrera - 1B
- Victor Martinez - DH
- Justin Upton - OF
- Nick Castellanos - 3B
- Tyler Collins - OF
- James McCann - C
- Jose Iglesias - SS
Would you like to have one of the best hitters in baseball on your fantasy team? Of course you do, so make sure to target Tigers' first baseman, Miguel Cabrera.
Miggy has hit at least .313 in each of his last eight seasons. He's also a virtual lock for 90+ runs, 100+ RBIs and he's had at least 30 home runs in eight of his last ten seasons...and that includes his injury shortened 2015 season. Oh yeah...that injury shortened 2015 season, was the only time Cabrera has visited the DL in his 14 year, MLB career! Yes, he's 34 years old, but I still feel confident that the veteran still has a lot of life left in him. Miggy is a top three, fantasy first baseman and while I've seen him go in the second round of many mock drafts at this point of the preseason, I would happily select him in the first, particularly with first base being fairly weak this year.
At second, the Tigers have one of the hardest working players in the league, as Ian Kinsler holds court. Kinsler had a fantastic season last year as he hit .288 with 28 home runs, 83 RBIs, 117 runs and even chipped in 14 stolen bases. His strikeout rate went from 11.9% to 16.9%, but since the 28 home runs was the highest he's had since 2011, I will happily take that trade off. He's a top ten second baseman and a great choice if you don't want to spend an early pick on the likes of Jose Altuve or Robinson Cano.
Shortstop, Jose Iglesias is a fantastic defender for the Tigers, but his bat has something to be desired. He can be left alone in mixed leagues.
Despite missing two months of the season with a broken hand, we got to see why third baseman, Nick Castellanos was one of the Tigers top prospects. He had career highs in batting average (.285) and home runs (18), and he looks to build on that in 2017. He has the potential to be a 20 home run guy and with him currently going as the 20th third baseman off the board in NFBC leagues with an average draft position at 205, I would feel great if Castellanos filled my corner infield position this year. That sounded kinda dirty.
Rounding out the infield is catcher, James McCann and designated hitter, Victor Martinez. McCann won't be able to help your fantasy squad, but Martinez can still hit for good average with 20-25 home run potential in his bat. Feel free to consider him late in drafts if you're looking to help fill your power categories.
Even though I'm a Tigers fan, I can still be objective when I look at their roster. With that said, I'm not a huge fan of Justin Upton. Detroit paid Upton $132 million last year and time will tell if he can live up to that contract. J-Up started off the season miserably as he hit .235 with only nine home runs, before redeeming himself in the second half as he hit .260 with 22 dingers. He doesn't steal many bases anymore and with his hitting volatility, I feel like his average draft position of 85 as the 20th outfielder off the board, is a little steeper than I want to pay. Outfield is a relatively deep position this year, so while some may take him based on his name value, I will likely take a pass on him in 2017.
Holding down right field, at least for the time being, is J.D. Martinez.
Martinez is in the last year of his contract and no other name on the Tigers roster has been linked to trade rumors more than his. Here's why I like J.D. Not only can he be a 30 home run guy who can be a good source of runs and RBIs, but he's a good hitter who can hit .300 as well. The uncertainty of his future gives me a little concern, but Comerica Park isn't necessarily an easy park to hit and if he's traded, it will likely be to a contender that should also have a solid lineup around him. Martinez is a borderline OF1 this year, but just realize he may not be in Detroit all season which could effect his value.
Center field is up in the air right now as Tyler Collins, Mikie Mahtook and JaCoby Jones are all competing for the gig. Per the Detroit Free Press, manager Brad Ausmus has recently stated he thinks Jones could use a little more seasoning, so in my opinion, this will be somewhat of a platoon situation with Collins and Mahtook both seeing time. Neither is fantasy worthy.
The Tigers rotation is anchored by CY Young award winner, Justin Verlander. Yes, I realize that it was technically given to Rick Porcello, but we all know that it truly belongs to Verlander. Many were counting JV out last year after he struggled through a couple of injury plagued years, but the 34 year old showed he wasn't ready to shut things down. He pitched 227 innings, stuck out over ten batters per nine innings (his best since 2009) and had a 3.04 ERA with 1.00 WHIP. He was fantastic and because two, boneheaded guys in Tampa Bay that left him completely off their CY Young ballots, JV was robbed last year. Can we expect a repeat performance from last season? Well, there are a few warning signs that scare me a little. Last season, Verlander had career highs in walk rate (28.1%) and home runs given up (30). He was benefitted by a nine percent increase on batters left on base, which helped keep his ERA in check. If he walks as many this year, I don't think he will get so lucky to leave as many on base. I also expect his K/9 ratio to come back to the normal range and be around nine, rather than the 10.04 that he had last year. In 2009, he struck out 10.09 batters per nine innings but in every other of his 12 MLB seasons, he never had over 9.03, so some regression to the mean can be expected. That said, even with this regression, I would still consider Justin Verlander a borderline SP1 in 2017 as he should still be able to provide a fair number of wins, good strikeouts and a decent ERA and WHIP.
One of the big surprises of last season was the performance of rookie, Michael Fulmer. Fulmer was acquired in the deal that had originally sent Yeonis Cespedes to the Mets and after three minor league starts last year, he was called up to the big show. He made the most of that opportunity as he was named American League Rookie of the Year in 2016. I'm surprised that they didn't give that award to Rick Porcello, too... He started fading a little bit in September, but he had a stretch of 33 scoreless innings from May into June and finished with a 3.06 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. While he only struck out 7.47 batters per nine innings, he showed in the minors that he's capable of more, so I expect that number to rise as he gains more experience. Fulmer is still young, so we may see some ups and downs from him this year, but he makes a very nice third starter for your fantasy rotation.
Returning this year will be last season's big free agent acquisition, Jordan Zimmermann. Zimmerman started off the season like a house of fire as he went 5-0 in his first five starts while only giving up two runs in those contests. Unfortunately, he suffered a neck injury which either kept him out, or limited him, in the second half of the year. If healthy, JZ could offer a nice draft value this season as he's currently be drafted as the 87th starting pitcher in NFBC leagues. Health is a big question mark as he had injections in his neck as recently as December, so it's worth monitoring how he is progressing during spring training. If he's healthy for the beginning of the season, his draft value should rise dramatically and he could make a nice SP4/SP5 for your fantasy team.
The Tigers have another young, exciting starting pitcher in Daniel Norris.
Norris is an odd duck who has lived in a van (seriously), but he was the key piece in the deal that had sent David Price to Toronto and he has the upside to be very good for years to come. I'm not going to pretend that I am an expert at delivery/motion and that's why I defer to the experts over at Fangraphs for those matters. In an interesting article that you can see here, they talk about how Norris has increased the speed of his fastball 1.2 MPH over the last year. He also improved his delivery by including a higher leg-lift to find better balance and has improved the speed on his slider from 83 MPH to 88. All signs are pointing that this kid's game is developing and he could be in line for a breakout year. He can be had for a late round pick right now and if you like upside, which you should, make sure to target Norris late in your draft.
Anibal Sanchez stinks and you will stink if you draft him on your team.
Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez will once again handle closing duties for Detroit. While he's lost some of his strikeout ability and walked a few too many batters for my liking last season, he's still a candidate for 40 saves and makes for a steady RP2 in 2016.
Sleeper: Nick Castellanos, Daniel Norris
Bust: Justin Upton